Rupert Holmes takes a look at some of the lates marine electronics to hit the market in 2021.
It seems every year the technology available to sailors is improving and broadening and 2021 is already delivering innovative new marine electronics from radical new ideas to improvements on well-known technology.
A new Model for marine electronics?
A possible taste of the future, with the potential to fundamentally change our long-term relationship with marine electronics, is offered by Finnish company Next Four.
Historically we’ve been accustomed to new yachts being fitted with equipment from one of the big marine electronics brands – Raymarine, Navico (including B&G), Garmin and so on.
However, Next Four’s Q Experience range is intended to form a single integrated system that can be customised by boatbuilders to offer exactly what they believe will best suit each of their models.
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This customisation can include specific screen layouts and datasets, as well as the boat manufacturer’s own branding. In this respect the concept has more in common with cars than marine.
Other than very high-end systems, such as the Harman/Kardon or Bowers & Wilkins audio systems offered as options by BMW, we’re no longer routinely accustomed to seeing third party branded equipment in our cars.
The Q Experience system consists of three key elements – Q Panel touch screen displays in 10in, 16in and ultra-wide screen formats, a remote control unit, digital switching system and mobile app.
There’s also integrated boat guard monitoring and antitheft functionality that connects to 4G networks, plus remote heater operation.
It therefore offers the potential for a streamlined and integrated approach covering both navigation and the operation of every element of the boat’s systems.
Traditionalists may argue that the lack of conventional 4in instrument displays is a weakness. However, these are increasingly anachronistic – if I was equipping a yacht from scratch today, whether as a new build or a refit, I’d most likely opt instead for the flexibility of small MFD displays to display instrument data.
Adoption has initially been from builders of motorboats, but it’s surely only a matter of time before we see this offered on new sailing yachts. CEO Niklas Ohman says pricing is “quite competitive” compared to the company’s larger competitors. He also points out that system has been designed to streamline the installation process, thus reducing labour costs for both boat builders and retro-fit customers.
Big format display
Lymington based A+T Instruments has been gradually making ever-larger inroads into the market for electronics on large cruising yachts and raceboats.
A few years ago the company’s growth was spurred by the development of new products that would interface with legacy B&G systems, enabling owners to update their electronics, or replace defective elements, without an expensive whole new installation.
Since then, A+T has expanded its range to include powerful processors and its own displays.
The BFD (big format display) is a top-notch unit that embraces the ongoing trend towards super large full-colour displays for instrument data.
The 12in screen has the same format as traditional 40/40 displays, so existing mast brackets can be used, but digits are 50% larger.
It can be mounted in either landscape or portrait orientations, can be read from any angle while wearing polarising glasses, and will operate with a unit temperature of up to 70˚C.
Network connection options include Ethernet, plus B&G Fastnet and N2K for legacy systems.
The display is intended to be the toughest and brightest available. Testing included 12 months of continuous operation in a water tank.
High Capacity Powerpack
Pocket-sized lithium ion power packs for topping up mobile phones and even laptops are commonplace and can at times be extremely useful, but most have limited capacity.
By contrast, this larger product takes the concept to its ultimate limit, offering a very high capacity battery, plus multiple AC, DC and USB outputs, as well as provision for easy recharging via solar panel.
The battery pack is rated at 1,010Wh. For comparison, current generation MacBook Pros have 58Wh or 100Wh batteries. There are twin 240V AC outlets, with a 1kW maximum output (2kW surge), plus several USB and 12V outlets.
Recharging is via either 240V AC or 12V DC supplies. The unit also includes an MPPT solar charge regulator so it can be connected directly to a boat’s solar array.
The case, which is waterproof to IP65, also includes space for an optional 80W solar panel.
For yachts venturing long distances this promises resilience in a 12.5kg box. In the event of a catastrophic failure of the ship’s power, the pack would suffice to keep a base level of essential LED lighting, navigation and communications equipment, including satellite phones, running for extended periods.
Off-grid power specialist WhisperPower has launched a battery-based alternative to a conventional 240V generator.
The OctoPower 3 marries a 5kWh lithium ion battery to a built-in 3,000W inverter, 90-265V battery charger and 50-1,000W solar charge regulator.
It’s aimed at weekenders who don’t want shorepower during overnight stops, but can re-charge the unit back at their home berth.
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